Fixed routing or demand-responsive? Agent-based modelling of autonomous first and last mile services in light-rail systems

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - tram/light rail, mode - bus, mode - demand responsive transit, place - urban, land use - impacts, land use - urban sprawl, economics - operating costs, technology - intelligent transport systems, operations - capacity, operations - frequency, operations - performance, ridership - demand, planning - methods


Agent-based simulation, Autonomous transit, First and last mile transport, Demand-responsive services, Cost–benefit analysis


This paper examines the potential of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology for enhancing first and last mile services for a light-rail station. We use an event- and agent-based simulation model to compare the performance of fixed and demand-responsive routing services. The routing of on-demand services is based on a matching algorithm in which incoming passenger requests are prioritized and assigned to vehicles under capacity constraints. Our findings indicate that, for a high-frequency light-rail feeder system, fixed routing is the preferred option, even with the assumed reduction in operational costs due to driver-less operations. However, we also observe that demand-responsive services can be as effective as fixed routing in off-peak hours, provided the heuristics for matching passengers to vehicles are effective. This implies that a combination of the two services could be beneficial in certain contexts. In addition, our results demonstrate that urban sprawl has an impact on the performance of the system, with the demand-responsive services becoming relatively better when urban sprawl increases, while the fixed routing remains superior across most key-performance indicators. To assess the performance of the different services, we employ cost–benefit analysis.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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